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What Does A Writing Community Look Like?

Everyone loves to feel as though they are a part of something, and creatives are no different. In fact, creativity often flourishes when there is someone around to share your art with whether you draw, knit or write. Having a community means that you can bounce ideas off of each other, get feedback or simply lament the woes of your respective creative outlets together. In my opinion, it is an invaluable asset to any creative but since I am first and foremost a writer, I want to talk a bit about writing communities.

Note that I said “communities” not “group” or “club” because there is more to it to that.

Here are some of my qualifiers for a writing community:

  • A writing community should be a safe space for all members. No one should be made to feel like the odd person out or as though they are in danger or under attack,

  • Writing communities offer assistance including but not limited to critique and feedback (that is not prescriptive!), resources to improve writing, opportunities to submit or build oneself up as a writer.

  • They should include writers who aren’t homogenous so that feedback is diverse and each person can gain new perspectives.

  • They offer time to write and space to discuss various hiccups in one’s writing process.

Writing communities are not about who is better at this genre or who can write the longest words or the most books in a single series. Writing communities aren’t about deciding what method of plotting is the best because everyone’s methods vary. In my opinion, and perhaps it is just me, but a writing community in which everyone is arguing all the time or voices are being put down or silenced is not a community that is worth being a part of. And this goes for both in-person and virtual communities. Thanks to technology, more and more people can meet virtually, which is great for those in remote areas or in places in which there are few writers. Of course, there are a ton of upsides to either as well as downsides, but the idea of compassion and inclusion should remain a part of each.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

In my time, I have been a part of a few writing communities, some better than others. There were some I stepped away from and some that just weren’t a right fit for me. If you are looking for a community, consider a few things before making a commitment to this group.

  1. Consistency

  2. Do they meet on a regular and consistent basis?

  3. Will you be able to form actual relationships or do people only show up when they have work to critique but aren’t there to critique others?

  4. Rules that are upheld

  5. All groups need standards and without a set of rules chaos can ensue. Moreover, does this group uphold the rules that they set? If not, it is as if they don’t have rules in the first place.

  6. A guilt-free zone.

  7. Yes, you may be expected to have pages in to your critique group at a certain time, but if they are some extenuating circumstances, you should not be belittled or picked apart because you have nothing to read. Instead, it should be easy to move you to another day and the group will spend more time on those who have work to share.

  8. Inclusion and camaraderie

  9. I’ve already mentioned that groups should not be homogenous, but there should also be inclusion. This is more than just saying “we have 1 person of this marginalized identity in the group.” Everyone in the group should feel as though their voice is not only heard but that their opinions are taken into account.

  10. Bias should be checked at the door in a community. No one should have to walk on eggshells or wonder if they are truly welcome.

  11. These are people that if you were to meet outside of the community, you would still feel comfortable with. Why spend your time surrounded by people who irk you or make you feel less than safe when you don’t have to?

  12. They promote creativity

  13. Any group that stifles your creativity or mocks your work is not the group for you. And if you witness them doing it to someone else, it also isn’t the group for you. Be an ally in that moment and let those people know it is not okay to bash another’s opinion or work.

Well, those are some of the things that I think shape a decent writing community. These are just starting points and everyone else has other criteria they add to their list. Some prefer to be in a group that caters to their preferred genre. Some prefer a group that can meet in person at least once in a while. Some prefer groups that never meet at all! Be that as it may, I believe that there are a few qualifications that every writing community should have. Do you agree?

Are you a part of a writing community? Is it in-person or virtual? How do you like it? Let me know in the comments.

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